'People are irritated when he is celebrating... but that energy is food for his team' - Lewis Moody
With Curry currently banned, Earl has not only accepted the role of delivering intensely physical hits, he has also operated at No8. Curry missed the Japan game and must also sit out the clash with Chile but the pair could be put together to face Samoa before the knock out stages and Moody is urging Steve Borthwick to take that route completing the back row with captain Courtney Lawes.
Earl’s performance against Japan didn’t earn him the official man of the match award which went to George Ford despite the Saracens forward making 12 tackles, 14 carries and 11 passes while amassing 74 metres with ball in hand including the most effective run on the wing by an England player in the match.
Moody, who won 71 England caps and led the team during the 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign, said: “Ben put in a stellar performance and it means Steve (Borthwick) has a difficult decision about Billy Vunipola. I would be 100 per cent in favour of playing Ben and Tom together because it is about having your best players on the pitch. That means Billy missing out for me.
“It worked well in Japan with Sam and Tom and I was big fan of them because they complimented each other. I think Ben and Tom will be the same and it is about picking players who are confident and on form rather than players who are lacking form and hoping they come good in the game because they have in the past.
“Courtney is the go to man on the blind side and it feels as if Tom will be the man to be No7 when he is back and quite right and Ben has done enough in these games to warrant a starting place. Why wouldn’t you have someone as dynamic and explosive as Ben in the team and able to play in the wide spaces. That would be my choice rather than going back to type and hitting Billy up time and time again in the short areas.
“Ben’s stats are really good from the Japan game and when we got him into space you could suddenly see what England are capable of and what those players can create. It is frustrating that the space was there but was used in a very different way in the first 60 minutes.”
Moody does not agree that Earl’s very theatrical reaction to a turnovers over won by England or a penalty award is over the top and enjoys the positivity he feels it generates for a team still trying to find its best form.
He added: “What I love about Ben is that energy is reflective and on the pitch his energy is enormous and some people are irritated when he is celebrating a penalty at a scrum or line out but that energy is food for his team around him. People thrive off that and if you are turning up and putting hits in and getting the turnovers then others are thinking “we need to feed off that a bit more” and go with him. Individuals like Ben can be hugely influential in a team.
“I was wondering if Ben was going to get a chance (with England) after his form at club level for Saracens and Bristol and at international level coaches go with players who they trust. Historically, they will stick with those players until they really have to change and we have got to that stage with Ben who didn’t get many chances under Eddie Jones and Steve has had his hand forced to a degree.
“England have got themselves out of the mire after the struggles before this tournament, conceding tries and kicking the ball away every time they got it and scoring very few tries. They have rectified a lot of that bar the trying scoring, accepting they got four against Japan. They still have a lot more to do in attack and you must pick the guys on form and that may mean changing the team.
“Physicality is seen in every game and the Islands nations all have that with Fiji leaps and bounds ahead from Samoa but remember they held Ireland to a narrow defeat before the Cup started. All the games are brutal but the way the Samoan game has evolved the flying recklessly has been taken away. Against Chile and Samoa, England need to choose the right tactics to win that particular game and that is what they have been doing.”
After the opening games of the pool stages Moody is backing France to emerge as the champions for the first time although he believes England are on course for the semi-finals and then like 2007 anything could happen. “I love the French and the intent they showed against New Zealand; “ he said.
“That was a phenomenal start and having played against France, who were a nightmare to play against and a ruthless bunch, I find myself rooting for them. Shaun Edwards defence is impressive and their attack is free flowing. I would love the Irish to do well but feel they will come unstuck in the semis and so France and South Africa are my bets for the final. Could England make the final – absolutely. But, are they playing well enough to beat those sides? No for me at the moment. In 2007 making the final felt like a victory in itself.”
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